BIK Terminology—

Solving the terminology puzzle, one posting at a time

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    Barbara Inge Karsch - Terminology Consulting and Training

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Archive for the ‘Events’ Category

A glossary for MT–terrific! MT on a glossary—horrific!

Posted by Barbara Inge Karsch on November 3, 2012

In the last few months, I have been reading quite a bit about machine translation. And I also took the opportunity at the recent LocWorld in Seattle and the ATA conference in San Diego to attend sessions on MT.

In Seattle, TAUS presented several real-world examples of what can today be done with the Moses engine. It was refreshing to hear from experts on statistical MT that terminology matters, since that camp, at least at MS, had largely been ignorant to terminology management in the past. Here are a number of worthwhile tutorials on the TAUS site for those who’d like to stay abreast of developments. JDE translation UI

At the ATA, the usual suspects, Laurie Gerber, Rubén de la Fuente, and Mike Dillinger, outdid each other once again in debunking the myth around MT. When fears did come up in the audience about MT and its effects, I had to think of a little story:

In the mid-90s, five of us German translators at J.D. Edwards were huddled in a conference room for some training. Something or someone was terribly delayed, and while chatting we all started catching up on the translation quota due that day. You know what that involved? It involved finding a string that came up 500 to 800 times. After translating it once, you could continue your chat and hit enter 500 to 800 times. See the screen print of the translation software to the right and you will realize that the software didn’t allow a human to translate like a human; we translated like machines, only worse because…oops, the 800 strings are through and you are on to the next source string. Some would call this negligent behavior and I am glad that today we have better translation software and that machines assist with or do the jobs that we are not good with.

Here is an example of where MT should not have been used. Those of you who know German, check out this text translated by MT and you will recognize very easily that, oops, it doesn’t make sense to have a glossary translated by a machine, least of all if there is no post-editing.


Posted in Events, Machine translation | Tagged: , , , | 3 Comments »

ATA impressions

Posted by Barbara Inge Karsch on November 22, 2011

Microsoft ClipArt

I have traveled quite a bit during the last four weeks and it is high time for an update. Let me start with a review of yet another great conference of the American Translators Association in Boston.

At last year’s ATA conference in Denver, I was still stunned because the Association still seemed to catch up with technology and the opportunity to embrace machine translation. This year, I saw something completely differently. Mike Dillinger gave a well attended, entertaining and educational seminar on machine translation. He certainly lived up to his promise of showing “what the translator’s role is in this new business model.”

It was so clear that editing for MT is a market segment on the rise, if not during Mike’s seminar, then during Laurie Gerber’s presentation on the specifics of editing machine translation output. She also shared tips on how to educate “over-optimistic clients”. You add to that Jost Zetzsche’s presentation on dealing with that flood of data, and the puzzle pieces start forming a picture of new skills and new jobs.

Microsoft ClipArtJost’s presentation is very much in line with an article by Detlef Reineke and Christian Galinski in eDITion, the publication of the German Terminology Association, DTT, about the flood of terminology in our future (“Vor uns die Terminologieflut”). To stem the flood, it helps to think of “data,” as Jost did, rather than texts, documents or even segments. He also declared the glossary outdated and announced a bright future for terminology databases. To think about texts, documents, segments, concepts and terms as data is helpful in the sense that data along with solid corresponding metadata have a higher reuse value, if you will, than unmanaged translation memories or the final translation product. That has been terminologists’ message for a long time.

I also attended sessions on translation education, one by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and one by New York University. Since I will be working with the Translation Center of the University of Illinois on a small research project and am currently preparing the online terminology course that will be part of the M.S. at NYU starting this spring, it was nice to meet my colleagues in person.

Posted in Events, Machine translation | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »

Terminology and Knowledge Engineering Conference 2012

Posted by Barbara Inge Karsch on November 16, 2011

There are not too many conferences that carry terminology in their title and that offer continuing education and fruitful exchanges to terminologists. The TKE conference is one of them. Here is the announcement of the TKE Conference 2012.

New frontiers in the constructive symbiosis of terminology and knowledge engineering

TKE (Terminology and Knowledge Engineering) Conference

In 2012, the conference will take place in Madrid, Spain, from June 19 through 22. This conference will mainly focus on those theoretical, methodological and practical aspects that show the symbiosis of terminology and knowledge engineering by highlighting the recent advances in these related fields. The first call for papers can be accessed here.


TKE Conference 2012

Posted in Events | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

Next ECQA CTM at Lessius in Antwerp

Posted by Barbara Inge Karsch on October 4, 2011

I am getting ready for my next trip to the Lessius University College of KULeuven in Belgium where I have been a guest lecturer for the last year. Shortly thereafter, Lessius will offer another round of ECQA Certified Terminology Manager – Basic. It won’t work out for me to teach with my colleagues, Hendrik Kokaert and Silvia Cerrela Bauer, but below is the information of the course which you can also find here on the TermNet website. 

ECQA Certified Terminology Manager – Basic

28 November – 2 December 2011 ECQA
Lessius University College
Antwerp, Belgium

In the globalized knowledge and information societies, specialized language has become a pre-requisite of any kind of efficient and effective communication, management and interoperability of technical systems and methodologies. Terminology and terminology management build an integral, high quality and quality assuring part of the end products, services and tools in the fields of:

  • Information & communication
  • Classification & categorization
  • Translation & localization


Monday, 28 November 2011

Tuesday, 29 November 2011
Wednesday, 30 November 2011
Thursday, 1 December 2011

Friday, 2 December 2011

Please send an e-mail to Dr Hendrik J. Kockaert: [].
Registration deadline is 7 November 2011.

Training: € 800
Test and certificate: € 150
Lessius University College/ KULeuven
Department of Applied Language Studies
Sint-Andriesstraat 2
B-2000 Antwerp

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A terminologist in bear country

Posted by Barbara Inge Karsch on September 27, 2011

For the last several weeks, I have been working on terminology for the nicely regulated aviation industry where well-defined terminology is prevalent. It was perfect timing to learn about training, maintenance, and safety concepts in this industry, since in the midst of the assignment, I climbed into a floatplane (The Otter) and flew to Katmai National Park for four fascinating days.

Valley of Ten Thousand SmokesThis park, located in the southwestern corner of Alaska, was founded following a volcanic eruption in 1912. The explosion of Novarupta was the largest volcanic event of the 20 century, and ashes could be found as far away as Africa. When researchers around Robert Griggs ventured back into the area, they found what they thought were small sources of fire still smoldering and dubbed the place ‘Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes.’ Years later upon closer investigation, the “smoke” turned out to come from the Ukak River that had gotten buried underneath the lava. Instead of particles produced by combustion, water vapor was rising from the lava fields. The misnomer of the valley stuck, though, but outside of the proper noun, “smoke” has since been put in quotes on most boards and documents.

Inaccurate terminology in historic names is common. In fact, misleading terms could be considered an indication of progress in a subject field and incorrect names of landmarks even add to the places. I am glad, though, that terminology at the other attraction of the Park is being handled extremely carefully these days. I am referring to the Brooks River and its resident bear population.

From a safe platform, these large mammals can be observed catching fish in four distinct ways: Snorkeling which is the most effective and most popular technique; younger bears often engage in what is called the “dash-and-grab” technique of running in shallower water and snatching fish with the paw. If they are not successful and hunger really strikes, specialists switch to technique number three, stealing. The least popular, but most interesting to watch, is diving: After the bear head disappears in the green water of Naknek Lake, a pair of leathery feet emerges. Seconds later, the lucky diver pops back up with a red sockeye salmon in his jaw.

Map of Brooks CampWhere bears and people live close together, rangers don’t have an easy task. People are to stay at least 50 yards from the bears, and even if you have the best intentions, you constantly need to be on your toes, in more than one sense of the word.

From 8 AM to 8 PM, rangers are stationed at three strategic places, roughly where you see the blue crosses on the adjacent map. It was highly interesting to listen to them inform each other about bear movement via two-way radio. One ranger was more precise and efficient in his or her communication than the next. And they all referred to places the same way: For example, the lowest cross is close to “the platform;” the next cross up was a place called “corner.” The corner and the platform were connected via a small floating bridge (“the bridge”). And to the East of the corner was a little promontory referred to as “the point.” Rangers described pathways of bears very clearly, so that each ranger always knew when to move people away from a spot or when the bridge could be approached, even though the terrain was covered by forest.Bear on the “corner”

While names of most landmarks had emerged over the years, returning rangers drew up a map to define important places for newcomers. Naming was logical and communication was adjusted seamlessly to recipient (fellow ranger or guest) and method (radio or face-to-face). While this might seem an obvious behavior, it is one that clearly contributes to the safety of the environment. Besides these professional observations, my father and I had an incredible time at Katmai National Park.

Posted in Events, Interesting terms | Tagged: , , | 4 Comments »

HCI International 2011

Posted by Barbara Inge Karsch on August 11, 2011

In July, I spent two days at Human Computer Interaction International 2011 in Orlando, Florida, with hundreds of UX designers, usability analysts, engineers and researchers from around the world. It surprised me that language as part of usability was mentioned just a few times. Furthermore, I didn’t expect to hear so much about the struggle of usability professionals within company hierarchies and cultures. It also occurred to me that many terminology management systems (TMS) may not have taken usability all that seriously so far.

Thunderstorm over Disney WorldChallenged by a missed flight and an extra night in DC, I managed to attend about 40 presentations. None of them even mentioned language, let alone terminology as a focus point or issue. Although Helmut Windl from Continental Automotive GmbH had a wonderful series of translation errors as an intro to his paper on Empathy as a Key Factor for Successful Intercultural HCI Design. Linguistic faux pas are always good for a laugh. As you might expect, my own paper, Terminology Precision—A Key Factor in Product Usability and Safety, was focused on avoiding such faux pas, particularly in the life sciences where blunders could be less than funny.

What came across in more than one presentation is that UX professionals, like language professionals, struggle with their status in an enterprise. Clemens Lutsch from Microsoft Deutschland GmbH gave a good presentation on making the case for usability standards to management that had useful ideas for us terminologists as well, e.g., what he called “the trap of the cost is already there”. What he means with this is that existing roles already take care of the task, say, user-centered design or, for us, something like term formation, so why bother changing anything. The awareness that these employees may not have the right skill set does not (always) exist. Usability folks and terminologists can form alliances on more than one front.

Usability Standards across the Development Lifecycle by Theofanos and StantonLutsch’s was part of a whole session on ISO usability standards and enterprise software. The award winning paper of this track (Design, User Experience, and Usability) by Theofanos and Stanton of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (US) introduced a comprehensive overview of all the standards provided or proposed by the respective ISO technical committee(s) and IEC. The graphic on the left which stems from the paper has lots of detail. But the main point of showing it here is that it has the user at the center and that any and all design tasks revolve around user needs.

I have participated in software development for terminology management systems (as well as in others) and this view was never the prevailing one. The result was often that TMS users struggled with the software: They would rather work in Excel and then import the data than work in the interface that was to support and facilitate their work.

So, here is a challenge to the designers and developers of TMS: Don’t provide systems that do a wonderful job hosting data; provide systems that allow us to do terminology work efficiently and reliably. In Quantity AND Quality, I discussed a few of the easy things that can be done on the interface level. I would love to see tools being developed following not only the soon to be released ISO 26162, but also the usability standards put forth by ISO TC 159, (Ergonomics). By the same token, let the usability and ergonomics people in the committee inspire the rest of their industry. After all their scope includes “standardization in the field of ergonomics, including terminology, methodology, and human factors data.”

Posted in Designing a terminology database, Events, Usability | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

ATA Preconference Seminar

Posted by Barbara Inge Karsch on August 7, 2011

The program for the 52nd ATA conference in Boston was just published. This year, Sue Ellen Wright and I will offer a preconference seminar.

Terminology Management for Translators
Barbara Inge Karsch and Sue Ellen Wright
(Wednesday, 9:00am-12:00pm; All Levels; Presented in: English)

This seminar will discuss best practices for translation-oriented terminology management, emphasizing pragmatic solutions for working translators designed to ensure long-term viability of terminological data. Topics will include fundamental principles, basic data fields for term entries, strategies for establishing target equivalents, and the avoidance of future problems and data loss. The benefits of following best practices include increased translation efficiency and accuracy, better source-language documents, reduced quality assurance costs, and an overall improvement in translation workflow and quality.

To register, click on the image below.

American Translators Associatin (

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Certificate in Localization: Customizing Software for the World

Posted by Barbara Inge Karsch on July 6, 2011

As a member of the Advisory Board for the UW Extension Program in Localization and its lecturer on terminology management, I’d like to draw your attention to the upcoming registration period for the next academic year. image

Since it is a short three-semester certificate, it only has a three-hour intro into terminology management. But when I left my job as English terminologist to go help out as German terminologist in the Microsoft office in Munich, a graduate from this program applied for and took over my position. She became a darn good terminologist who still takes care of Microsoft’s geopolitical terminology today.

Terminology aside for a moment, if your are looking for a certificate in localization and you can participate in person here in Seattle, check out the program. If you are looking for an online course, you are a good candidate, too; we worked with the virtual learning environment, Moodle, last semester, and while it doesn’t quite substitute for the fun that you can have in a class room, it is quite convenient to follow the course from your home office. For more details, please see the course website.

Certificate in Localization: Customizing Software for the World

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How is Superman related to a lawn mower?

Posted by Barbara Inge Karsch on July 3, 2011

Terminology is for translators! Why should I, as a fill-in-the-blank expert, worry about terminology? Oh, but we are in marketing, not in translation! Excuses, excuses. When you wait until your terminology hits the translator, it is too late. Besides the fact, it is not true that folks in the content supply chain don’t deal with terminology management. Most of them just don’t deal with it consciously. Some do it very effectively.

But there are links in that chain who very, very actively deal with terminology. Only three out of 23 car sales people I interviewed at the Canadian International AutoShow in February, for instance, were stumped by the question “what is terminology”. All others had very good definitions, explanations and synonyms handy. What’s more, almost all of them pointed out the effect of terminology choices on their customers. They knew muuuch more about terminology issues than most people in the content supply chain are willing to admit. Some of them were just not that happy with the terminology that came down the pipeline to them!

Terminology is very deliberately used by marketing and branding departments to achieve brand recognition and ultimately to sell. Here is a commercial that uses presumed synonymy to introduce essential concepts of a product and reach potential buyers on different levels:

  • It brings in terms from other subject areas to introduce what could be an unknown technical term: “clipper shavers” vs. “twin blades.”
  • It introduces what must be an impressive technical concept represented by a registered trademark in a non-threatening way: “veggie mow” vs. “Versamow©.”
  • And finally, it uses a designator, which the target audience is emotionally attached to, although it represents a completely unrelated concept: “Kryptonite*” vs. “NeXite©.”

Using presumed synonymy as a technique allows the marketing experts to have a likeable bungler explain what is implied to be a technically excellent product, all with the tag line “Hard to describe, easy to use.”

It is not as over-the-top as the Turbo Encabulator that has my students rolling on the floor even at 9 PM. But it shows how clued into terminology methods some branding folks really are. So, if you are part of the content supply chain and think you have nothing to do with terminology principles and methods, think again. Your competition is using them while you are still denying they exist.

Terminology in a commercial

*For more on Kryptonite see the Wikipedia entry. What I find interesting is that the commercial refers to it, even though it stands for a weakness. The makers of the commercial rely on the association to Superman being so strong, powerful and positive that the target audience completely forgets what Kryptonite stands for.

BIK: Thanks to Ben W. for pointing out a much more logical explanation, which eluded me in the final minutes of writing the above: The direct association with Kryptonite is that with a powerful material. And who wouldn’t want something that is stronger even than Superman.

Posted in Branding, Events, Subject matter expert, Terminology methods | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »

Avoiding doublettes or a report from the ISO meetings in Korea

Posted by Barbara Inge Karsch on June 23, 2011

One of the main reasons we have doublettes in our databases is that we often don’t get around to doing proper terminological analysis. I was just witness to and assistant in a prime example of a team doing this analysis at the meetings of ISO TC37.

ISO TC 37 is the technical committee for “Terminology and other language and content resources.” It is the standards body responsible for standards such as ISO 12620 (now retired, as discussed in an earlier posting), 704 (as discussed here) or soon 26162 (already quoted here). This year, the four subcommittees (SCs) and their respective working groups (WGs) met in Seoul, South Korea, from June 12 through 17.

One of these working groups had considerable trouble coming to an agreement on various aspects of a standard. Most of us know how hard it is to get subject matter experts (or language people!) to agree on something. Imagine a multi-cultural group of experts who are tasked with producing an international standard and who have native languages other than English, the language of discussion! The convener, my colleague and a seasoned terminologist, Nelida Chan, recognized that the predicament could be alleviated by some terminology work, more precisely by thorough terminological analysis.

First, she gave a short overview of the basics of terminology work, as outlined in ISO 704 Terminology work – Principles and methods. Then the group agreed on the subject field and listed it on a white board. Any of the concepts up for discussion had to be in reference to this subject field; if the discussion drifted off into general language, the reminder to focus on the subject field was right on the board.

The group knew that they had to define and name three different concepts that they had been struggling with, although lots of research had been done; so we put three boxes on the board as well. We then discussed, agreed on and added the superordinate to each box, which was the same in each case. We also discussed what distinguished each box from the other two. Furthermore, we found examples of the concepts and added what turned out to be subordinates right into the appropriate box. Not until then did we give the concepts names. And now, naming was easy.View from the meeting room onto Olympic National Park in Seoul, by BIK

Step 1 .

Subject field

Step 2 Superordinate Superordinate Superordinate
Step 3 Distinguishing characteristic 1
Distinguishing characteristic 2
Distinguishing characteristic 1
Distinguishing characteristic 2
Distinguishing characteristic 1
Distinguishing characteristic 2
(Step 4) . Subordinate
Step 5 Designator Designator Designator


After this exercise, we had a definition, composed of the superordinate and its distinguishing characteristics as well as terms for the concepts. Not only did the group agree on the terms and their meanings, the data can now also be stored in the ISO terminology database. Without doublettes.

Granted, as terminologists we don’t often have the luxury of having 15 experts in one room for a discussion. But sometimes we do: I remember discussing terms and appellations for new gaming concepts in Windows Vista with marketing folks in a conference room at the Microsoft subsidiary in Munich. Even if we don’t have all experts in shouting distance, we can proceed in a similar fashion and collect the information from virtual teams and other resources in our daily work. It may take a little bit to become fluent in the process, but terminological analysis helps us avoid doublettes and pays off in the long run.

Posted in Events, Researching terms, Standardizing entries, Subject matter expert, Terminologist, Terminology 101, Terminology methods, Terminology principles | Tagged: , , , , , | 3 Comments »

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